apartment rentals in hot markets

With this day-by-day plan, you might find yourself signing a lease by the end of the week.

Finding an apartment in a hot market can be intimidating and frustrating. The best apartment rentals sometimes vanish within a few hours of coming on the market. The best course of action? Get in and out of the fray as quickly as possible. Whether it’s a spacious unit in a top school district, or a chic apartment with co-working spaces, landing your ideal rental in a fast-moving market is possible in just one week. Here’s how.

How to Sign a Lease in Only 7 Days

  • Day 1: Prep Work

    Start by getting clear on your own needs and wants. Create a list of must-haves and a list of nice-to-haves, in terms of space, amenities, and budget. Think about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, parking, laundry, and extras—such as a pool or fitness center. When you begin searching, referring to your notes will help you filter out listings that don’t fit your needs.

    Once you’ve planned your own search filter strategy, gather up proof-of-income documents so that when you start contacting potential landlords, you’ll be prepared to submit an application without delay.

    Proof of income can include:

    • A month of pay stubs
    • An offer letter with a salary and start date
    • Documents that show loans or grants you will use to pay rent
    • Co-signer information

    Save these documents in an electronic format so you can email them to a landlord or attach them to an online application.

    While you’re at it, compile your past addresses and previous landlords’ names, as well as phone numbers of current and past employers so you’ll be prepped with relevant info for the applications and for a background check.

  • Day 2: Researching Neighborhoods

    Being too hasty can lead to a misstep you’ll regret. Spend some time researching the city and identify your top neighborhoods. Ask for recommendations from friends, family, and co-workers.

    Narrow your list to a couple of neighborhoods, and start filtering available property listings according to your preferences. If you experience sticker shock or don’t find many rentals with your must-haves, it may be time to reassess your list of requirements or your first-choice neighborhoods. A local or a real estate professional might be able to tell you if you’ll like a neighborhood based on the amenities you need or your budget.

  • Day 3: Scouting and Scheduling

    It’s time to start making calls. Set up as many viewings as you can on the same day for maximum efficiency. It can help to work with a rental agency that has licensed real estate brokers, because they can get you into listings with lockboxes right away instead of taking the time to track down and make an appointment with each landlord.

    If possible, space your viewings throughout the day. That way, if you spot another property you like while you’re in the neighborhood, you’ll have some time to try and slip in for a quick viewing immediately.

  • Day 4: Viewing and Vetting

    Make the most of every viewing. The last thing you want is to leave an apartment and then later realize there were questions you should have asked, leaving you unable to make a decision until you get them answered. Jot down your list of questions for the landlord before meeting. In addition to looking for the basics, ask yourself these questions about each apartment before moving on to the next:

    • Are all my must-haves up to my expectations?
    • If it doesn’t have some of my nice-to-haves, what does it have to make up for them?
    • What will my commute be like from here? How’s the traffic? Is this a walkable neighborhood?
    • Is there anything unexpected about this place? Could I live with it?
    • Does it feel good in here? Could it feel like home?
    • Can I see myself actually using the amenities that sounded so fantastic in the listing?
    • Does the quality of the building align with my expectations and the rental rate?

    As you move from apartment to apartment, start ranking them. By the end of the day, your list will be in order of preference.

  • Day 5: Applying and Negotiating

    It’s decision day. Make the call about where to apply, and fill out your rental applications first thing. If you can afford the non-refundable application fee—usually $40–$50—Reidy suggests putting in applications on two or three properties.

    To gain an edge on other applicants, consider crafting a heartfelt letter about why you’re moving, especially if you’re thrilled about an incredible new job or a fresh start on your career path in this city. Also, emphasize that you are responsible and will take care of the property.

    If you have a pet, head off any concerns by creating a pet resume with basic information such as weight, vet records—and a cute photo, of course. Describe how your pet loves cuddling with you, is house-trained, not a barker, and tends to be a bit lazy (aka, won’t move fast enough to scratch up the floors).

    To overcome any hesitation about your pet, consider sweetening the deal for a landlord with these options:

    • Offer to pay extra, $25 or more, in monthly rent.
    • Agree to start your lease a week earlier than you plan to move in.
    • Extend the typical 12-month lease to 18 months or two years.
  • Day 6: Waiting and (More) Negotiating

    This day is your chance to breathe, though you may feel like holding your breath until you hear a “yes” from the landlord. Reidy notes that most rental applications take anywhere from three minutes to three days to accept. The turnaround time is typically shortest for rental companies that have systems in place and longest for a small company or individual landlord.

    You can call to check on the status of your application and find out when you can expect to hear back. Reiterate that you would love to live there and even consider negotiating, if you didn’t do so the previous day.

    Tanner landed her great rental by being flexible about her move-in date, starting her lease earlier than she actually needed it.

    If you find yourself on a waitlist or feel that your applications are lingering too long, consider submitting another application or two to increase your odds of signing a lease in the next 24 hours.

  • Day 7: Signing the Lease

    Hooray! You’ve found your next place to live. Take a few moments to celebrate, but don’t relax for too long. You have a move to plan!

Looking for ways to impress a landlord? Create your Rental Resume for an easy way to stand out from the crowd.